‘So remember, it’s better to burn out than fade away’- Kurt Cobain


19 years after his tragic death Kurt Cobain was certainly true to his word. His music is still cemented at the forefront of the rock movement’s mind. Kurt Cobain is truly the embodiment of 90s grunge.

I challenge you to find anyone who has never heard ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Whilst its true that Kurt became somewhat tired of having to play this song, the fact still remains that it defines a generation. There was something about Cobain’s talent for depicting the frustration and pent up angst of youth. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ exploded onto the music scene, solidifying Nirvana as a band that deserved to be heard.

Kurt famously had a tumultuous upbringing that provided as ample material for songs. Accompanied by a highly publicised drug addiction and relationship with the controversial Courtney Love it is fair to say that on paper Kurt lived a colourful life. Despite all of this he was reportedly extremely introvert. Yet when it came to his music it was a completely different story. He was able to convey raw and often angry emotions that captured a generation. His songs included delicate subjects such as rape, in the bluntly named ‘Rape Me’ and more subtly in ‘Polly’. Yet he shunned the idea of people psychoanalysing him through his lyrics as he often wrote them at the last minute. He was wary of people putting too much meaning into his lyrics. It’s fair to say though that Nirvana made statements with their music. The album cover for their second album ‘Nevermind’ has become iconic. It’s been speculated that the baby swimming after the money is symbolic of the materialistic culture we now live in.

His death has always been surrounded in huge controversy. Many documentaries have been made about the days leading up to his death. A particularly good one is Nick Broomfield’s simply titled ‘Kurt & Courtney’, which attempts to find the facts behind these controversies to no avail. However, whilst this subject will always been fascinating no matter how many documentaries are made, ultimately these speculations will always remain speculations.

Kurt Cobain famously said ‘I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I’m not’. This is an insightful observation, perhaps on celebrity culture itself. Look at some of the mainstream musicians that are celebrated today. Many create these weird and wonderful personas to encourage you to believe they are special and unique when in reality they are just like the rest of us. Do we love these celebrities for something they are not?

So by the power invested in me I hereby declare this day to be National Kurt Cobain Day. On this day we shall remember his music, his ability to capture the hopelessness of youth and his raw growling vocals. When Kurt Cobain said ‘it’s better to burn out than fade away’ he truly meant it. His musical legacy that he left behind accompanied with this harrowing statement has ensured that he certainly will not ever fade away.


About Author

Hi I'm Grace I risk sounding disgustingly cliched but I cannot remember a time when music wasn't part of my life. I love going to gigs and have been known to dabble in a bit of gigging and song writing myself.


  1. In this day and age of constant replay on so many radio stations, virtually no one is playing Nirvana anywhere. The closest you get even on the BOB FM format is former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohls band Foo Fighters.

    Its just you Cobain cultists who were struck by an artist whose main claim to fame was to be different (easily played power chords and unintelligible vocals were a trademark), and to vocalize a 90s youthful desire to rebel against even such concepts as effort. He rebelled against teen empowerment anthems with Teen Spirit and seemingly followed his own advice by dropping out of life and breathing.

    To truly burn out rather than fade away requires more effort that growling about quitting. Neil Young used it to illustrate his recognition that punk was taking over the rock scene, but that his rusty rock self would rather go out playing his stuff than quitting. Fictionally the Kurgan utters it in the Queen song “Gimme the Prize” as an act of defiant dominance signifying him running headlong towards challenges and potential reward. And Queen frontman Freddie Mercury went out burning as far as he was physically able.

    So celebrate this former flavor of the month, who had some impact, but I for one am going to go work out with the likes of Queen, Neil Young, and maybe even some Foo Fighters.

    • This is 8 years old, but it remains one of the most weirdly hostile, petty minded, dismissive takes I have ever read.

      Kind of an achievement, I guess…

  2. I do hate to burst your bubble, but Neil Young was way before Kurt Cobain, and “It’s better to burn out than to fade away” was in the lyrics to one of his songs that goes by the name of My my hey hey. So Neil is the rightful owner of that phrase.

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